Marking The Hours With Neeraj Walia, Managing Director & CEO, Montblanc India Retail Private Limited, On Changing Perceptions And Indian-Market Shifts

Marking The Hours With Neeraj Walia, Managing Director & CEO, Montblanc India Retail Private Limited, On Changing Perceptions And Indian-Market Shifts

THM Desk
29 May 2024 |
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India has always been a country that appreciates art and has an amazingly rich cultural heritage. While traditionally looking westward for fashion aspirations, when presented with compelling craftsmanship narratives and exquisite European savoir-faire, Indian clients truly embrace and appreciate them.

There is significant overlap among the discerning audiences for writing instruments, timepieces, and fine leather goods. The same connoisseurs who collect pens and watches also have an eye for bespoke leather artistry. It is this common group of elite patrons who deeply values and responds to Montblanc’s authentic luxury offerings across categories.

Montblanc Bags

We caught up with Neeraj Walia, Managing Director & CEO, Montblanc India Retail Private Limited, to discuss the market shifts and perception of the brand in India as well as globally.

THM: Montblanc has been around for a very long time, even the watch division and numerous patented timepiece innovations over the decades. In your opinion, is the perception of Montblanc purely within the Indian market starting to shift?

Neeraj: I prefer not to provide an answer myself. The recognition should come from watch collectors and enthusiasts in the industry who appreciate our watches organically. We do not wish to boast about being a great watchmaker, instead, we let our products speak for themselves. We’ve introduced many new offerings across the categories like with the 1858 series - 0 Oxygen Deep 4810 diving watch, Iced Sea Automatic Date – in Burgundy dial color, Iced Sea Automatic date in a new case material – ‘Cupro’ - Copper and Aluminium Edition, Geosphere 0 Oxygen in a new case material - CARBO2 with limitation to 1969 pieces.

With Minerva we launched The Unveiled Minerva Monopusher Chronograph LE100, 1858 The Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva LE100 and more. It is great to see watch afficionados come to us and compliment our interesting timepieces and great craftsmanship. Each year, more people recognize the effort we put into our watches across different price points.Take the Iced Sea 0 Oxygen Deep 4810, for instance. It’s a diving watch with a titanium case. Clients like its unique 43mm case size, as most others are 45mm or larger, along with its 5-day power reserve and zero oxygen features – many firsts in that segment.


The new 1858 The Unveiled Timekeeper Minerva with a case-back that tells the story of Minerva has received a lot of praise. The Nicolas Rieussec watches have always been a client favourite as well. This year we have the Nicolas Rieussec Chronograph celebrating Meisterstück 100 Years in a limitation of 500 pieces.

THM: Montblanc is shifting towards more sports and adventure-oriented timepieces. However, over the last two years, there has been a perception in the watch industry that the trend for sports watches has peaked or is peaking in terms of functionality and desirability. What are your thoughts on this?

Neeraj: Attention to detail is crucial for Montblanc, as craftsmanship and savoir-faire are paramount. This extends to our sports and exploration-oriented timepieces too. The 1858 line, a tribute to Montblanc’s spirit of exploration, is receiving an excellent response. It features many firsts like our Iced Sea timepieces where the dials are crafted using the gratté-boisé technique, which takes four times longer to make than a standard dial.

Glacier dials made using the gratté-boisé technique
Glacier dials made using the gratté-boisé technique

The titanium case-backs have stunning 3D engravings of mountains like K2 and Everest, climbed by Reinhold Messner. In the Iced Sea line, we introduced a new Cupro case material this year – a copper-aluminium alloy instead of copper-tin, making it stronger and tougher than bronze while still developing a beautiful patina.

New Cupro case material this year – a copper-aluminum alloy instead of copper-tin for the Iced Sea Automatic
New Cupro case material this year – a copper-aluminum alloy instead of copper-tin for the Iced Sea Automatic

We’re also debuting the CARBO2 case, combining carbon fiber, carbon dioxide, and calcium carbonate in a compressed distressed case with the silhouette of the Mont Blanc mountain. These watches represent extreme mountain sports on both the athletic and exploratory fronts. Small details like interchangeable straps - V-shaped rubber for sporty looks or stainless steel bracelets - add functionality. Overall, Montblanc is bringing meticulous craftsmanship and innovation to sports/adventure watches, a segment warmly received by enthusiasts.

THM: Is it difficult for the brand to tread along this path of sports watches?

Neeraj: Innovation and customer focus have been priorities for us since 1906 when the founders, a banker, and an engineer, joined to create the first leak-proof fountain pen - best in its category. We maintain the same customer-centric and innovative approach. Minerva epitomizes our serious watchmaking pedigree and attention to detail across components,
cases, movements, and dials. On one hand, the 1858 collection celebrating the spirit of exploration resonates well with younger clients. In parallel, lines like Star Legacy with Minerva movements, and Orbis Terrarum receive fantastic responses across demographics.


Catering to both traditional and modern tastes is difficult but not impossible. This year marking the Meisterstück’s 100th anniversary, we’re launching writing instruments inspired by the original 1906/1924 designs alongside a leather goods collection. The Nicolas Rieussec timepiece pays tribute to the Icon with a dial featuring the 1920s archival Meisterstück patterns and the 1950s emblem when the 149 and 145 series debuted. Also, the oscillating weight has patterns of calligraphy.

So, while honouring our rich legacy, we offer contemporary designs appealing to diverse audiences. Both the traditional and modern sensibilities coexist seamlessly across our categories.

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THM: Do you see Montblanc separating their various offerings in these distribution channels?

Neeraj: Our distribution strategy in India has evolved over the last couple of years. We have reduced the number of doors to ensure great experience across every touchpoint. Certain categories like large leather goods will be available exclusively at our boutiques to ensure the complete representation of collection.

We are focused on enhancing the brand experience by unveiling new boutique design concepts. This includes our newest boutique at the Bangalore’s Terminal 2 domestic departures, sporting the latest global design. We are also opening boutiques at duty-paid and duty-free locations in other key cities. 

These new concepts aim to provide a complete, immersive experience connecting our various product lines - like showcasing how the 1858 watch collection ties into the new leather backpacks and totes, writing instruments, and tech accessories like the upcoming in-ear headphones.

mb pens.jpg

THM: What does the Indian market hold for Montblanc and any special editions for the brand?

Neeraj: India remains an important market for Montblanc. We were among the first luxury brands to enter the country and open exclusive boutiques. In 2019, we launched an India exclusive writing instruments collection – Celebration of the Taj Mahal.

This year’s Orbis Terrarum – a world timer, pays tribute to India through its Around the World in 80 Days Chapter 2 theme depicting Phileas Fogg’s journey across the key cities on his route – San Francisco, New York, Queens Town, Yokohama, Hong Kong, Calcutta, Bombay, London, Aden, Suez, and Brindisi – represented with gold dots, while the route itself is mapped out with 80 gold dashes. The caseback features imagery of the Gateway of India, a Mongolian steamboat that provided the transport for their adventures between Italy and India and the majestic and faithful elephant Kiouni. Such unique, India-inspired designs reflect our commitment to this significant market that has been part of our story since our pioneering entry years ago.

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THM: Is the market for watches growing for Montblanc in India?

Neeraj: The positive client reception we mentioned is translating into sales growth, which is an excellent sign. This encouraging response spans across all our product categories and demographics. It’s not just limited to the Geosphere line - even the Iced Sea Collection watches are finding appeal amongst female clients. From the 1858 range to our high-end timepieces and exclusive limited editions, we’re experiencing a warm market embrace.